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Fort William could become the first Scottish town to enter into a twinning arrangement with Corsica if plans for such a ‘French Connection’ get the thumbs up from both communities.
Last month the Lochaber Times reported on the first contact between a representative from the Corsican municipality of Biguglia on the Mediterranean island.
At its January meeting, Fort William, Inverlochy and Torlundy Community Council agreed members would contact a number of local people and if there is sufficient interest in a twinning arrangement with Biguglia, the council will look to form a sub-committee to take this forward.
Biguglia, located in the north of Corsica, is home to 8,350 people. In the 14th century it was the capital of the Mediterranean island and is one of France’s 18 regions.
The potential twinning has come about after the council was contacted by Paul Poli, a mountain guide/lecturer and councillor who has been coming to Scotland for more than 20 years.
Mr Poli got back in touch with the Lochaber Times this week to shed a little more light on why it was felt Fort William would be such a good match.
‘Corsica is not twinned with any town in Scotland. To twin Corsica with a Scottish town would be logical and natural. History, culture and environment could be a subject for sharing, as our two countries are certainly separated by the sea but look similar,’ he said.
Mr Poli said it was in 1719 that the Jacobites and the Stuarts were in direct contact with the Corsicans in exile in the kingdom of Naples, Spain and Rome.
The Corsicans accepted the sovereignty of the Stuarts who, regaining legitimacy, agreed to submit themselves to a constitution administered by the Corsican people and ensured their independence.
And as to why Fort William was chosen as the target of their twinning overtures, Mr Poli said: ‘Our municipality, which has a population of almost 9,000, is in the north of Corsica and has a maritime part and a mountainous part.
‘Hiking trails join the neighbouring valleys to find the highest mountains of our island and access to Monte Cinto, the highest peak of Corsica. Since the 12th century, Saint Andrew, patron saint of all Scotland, is Biguglia’s patron saint.
‘In addition, Corsica has a university located in the centre of Corsica, in Corte. This university is part of the RETI network (Excellence Network of Island Territories) which includes the University of the Highlands and Islands.
‘The tourism and hiking sector is one of the most important assets of the Highlands and Corsica. The conditions are well combined and can allow our two cities to twin up and exchange on several areas.
‘As far as the population of our municipality is concerned, for the last two years, trips were organised to allow Corsicans to discover the formidable territory of the West Highlands, from Glencoe to Fort William or from Ben Nevis to the Five Sisters.
‘A study trip with Biguglia Primary School was planned for this year but unfortunately in view of the current conditions was not able to take place.
‘Children and parents of the municipality are enthusiastic about this project of study trips and our teachers are in demand for exchanges with Fort William College.
‘As well as sports and cultural associations, the citizens and elected representatives of Biguglia would be delighted to set up this twinning and to exchange on the different themes of our respective regions.’
Biguglia in Corsica.